Advice needed on buying a camcorder!

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rphurley
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Advice needed on buying a camcorder!

Post by rphurley » Tue Dec 06, 2011 7:17 pm

Hello,
My wife and I are expecting our first child and I would like to buy a camcorder and include it with her Christmas gifts. Are there any brands I should avoid or features that I should consider when making this purchase? I have no experience with them and would like one that is easy to use and has features that I might want to use when I have some experience with it. Any suggestions or advice is appreciated.
Thanks,

MathWizard
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Re: Advice needed on buying a camcorder!

Post by MathWizard » Tue Dec 06, 2011 7:37 pm

For features, I'd suggest:

image stabilization (so you don't get bouncy video), maybe all new ones have this

If you use it outside at all, get an eyepeice viewfinder rather than just an LCD screen
Our new camcorder has only the LCD screen, and when we went whale watching,
the back-reflection off the LCD screen made it impossible to see anything. I
was pointing the camera by "sighting over the top" and trying to guess the zoom.
Totally wasted video.

Get a tripod. Even with image stablization, there are times you want stable video,
and at concerts you can just use it as a monopod and your arm won't go numb trying
to hold it up and still.

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Boglenaut
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Re: Advice needed on buying a camcorder!

Post by Boglenaut » Tue Dec 06, 2011 7:59 pm

Get High Def ... they are cheap now. Get flash memory (no DVD or hard drive) for better battery life and expandability.

Camcorders have improved immensely in the last few years, and lower prices.

Sony is a good brand, but they don't use standard SD cards.

guitarguy
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Re: Advice needed on buying a camcorder!

Post by guitarguy » Wed Dec 07, 2011 7:58 am

Boglenaut wrote:Get High Def ... they are cheap now. Get flash memory (no DVD or hard drive).
...and get a BIG bleepin' flash card. HD video takes up a lot of room quickly!

Get one that is good at shooting in medium to low lighting conditions. From my experience, these aren't the cheapest ones. :roll:

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PassiveAggressive
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Re: Advice needed on buying a camcorder!

Post by PassiveAggressive » Wed Dec 07, 2011 9:59 am

I bought a camcorder in 2001 and just replaced it this year. I hope the new one will last me 10 years as well, so I bought a relatively high-end version. When I was doing my research, I started with the buying guide at Camcorderinfo.com (http://www.camcorderinfo.com/). Then I read more reviews on CNet and Amazon.

I ended up with the Panasonic HDC-TM900K. It is now available for about $700. Pananasonic also sells a version with somewhat less impressive optics called the HDC-TM90k. This sells for around $400. For most people the difference between the two cameras is probably not worth $300, but I am very happy with our camcorder and have no regrets. Higher end consumer models use three internal sensors. The lower end models are probably excellent as well and they rely on just one sensor. Canon and Sony also make excellent camcorders.

DTSC
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Re: Advice needed on buying a camcorder!

Post by DTSC » Wed Dec 07, 2011 10:12 am

Congratulations! You will find that you will take literally thousands of pictures of your child, but if you're an average amateur photographer, only 1 out of 40 will be of sufficient quality to print. Having a camera with a fast shutter speed helps. Therefore, IMO, get a good D-SLR camera which also has a good video mode (such as the Nikon D5100). As the father of 3 young children, I find that we rarely look at movies but much more frequently look at, send, and post pictures. Once you have a D-SLR camera, you don't want to be carrying another device (i.e. the camcorder) around too. It's just too much to manage - 2 sets of batteries to charge, 2 sets of media to download, etc. For casual, impromptu pictures, the camera on most smartphones will do.

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PassiveAggressive
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Re: Advice needed on buying a camcorder!

Post by PassiveAggressive » Wed Dec 07, 2011 10:53 am

I agree with DTSC that your first priority should be buying a good DSLR. I wish that I had one when our kids were little. We have lots of great baby pictures, but we also missed countless shots because the camera could not repond fast enough.

If you already have a DSLR, I would still seriously consider buying a dedicated camcorder. I love the fact that my wife's IPhone can record video. We us it a lot when it is impractical to carry a camcorder or we just did not think to bring it. Modern DSLRs also record video well, but in my opinion neither is a true replacement for a digital camcorder. Whether you are recording your child's first adventure eating "solid" foods or later school plays, soccer games and piano recitals, you will be glad that you have a camcorder for these events. The image stabilization, low light performance and sound are so much better on a camcorder.

I will admit that owning a dedicated camcorder is a bit of a luxury. If you choose to use a DSLR or smartphone for video, try to hold it as stable as possible. A tripod or monopod will help. As long as the lighting is fairly good, you will generally be pleased with the results.

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Re: Advice needed on buying a camcorder!

Post by guitarguy » Wed Dec 07, 2011 11:00 am

PassiveAggressive wrote:I will admit that owning a dedicated camcorder is a bit of a luxury. If you choose to use a DSLR or smartphone for video, try to hold it as stable as possible. A tripod or monopod will help. As long as the lighting is fairly good, you will generally be pleased with the results.
Someone else mentioned this but I'll second it...if you go this route, you'll be able to capture most things you want. But, the zoom, stability, and drastic improvement on the audio quality make an actual camcorder worth it, especially when you really want to record something well, like a play or recital. A smartphone won't do near as good a job because you can forget about zooming and good audio quality. For baby's first breast feeding (just kidding :lol:) or playing in the family room or smaller things like that, a smartphone will work just fine.

DTSC
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Re: Advice needed on buying a camcorder!

Post by DTSC » Wed Dec 07, 2011 2:14 pm

guitarguy wrote: snip...
Someone else mentioned this but I'll second it...if you go this route, you'll be able to capture most things you want. But, the zoom, stability, and drastic improvement on the audio quality make an actual camcorder worth it, especially when you really want to record something well, like a play or recital. A smartphone won't do near as good a job because you can forget about zooming and good audio quality. For baby's first breast feeding (just kidding :lol:) or playing in the family room or smaller things like that, a smartphone will work just fine.

I would respectfully disagree. I think a D-SLR with a zoom lens and tripod will work just fine as a camcorder. Unless your kid is the next Yo-Yo Ma or Lady Gaga, videos of those recitals are more for archival purposes than anything else. I don't know many parents who watch old recital videos over and over again and complain about the production quality.

scouter
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Re: Advice needed on buying a camcorder!

Post by scouter » Wed Dec 07, 2011 2:29 pm

I've noticed one feature where the dedicated camcorders seem to have an advantage, and that is image stabilization. Tripods are great, but sometimes you have to be moving, walking, etc. while you shoot, and the stabilization on the dedicated camcorders seems to be better than that of the still cameras that also shoot video. Even with a tripod, good stabilization can make panning smoother.

Quiet, smooth zooming is another plus of a dedicated video camera.

+1 on going for HD, as well.

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Re: Advice needed on buying a camcorder!

Post by guitarguy » Wed Dec 07, 2011 2:38 pm

DTSC wrote:
guitarguy wrote: snip...
Someone else mentioned this but I'll second it...if you go this route, you'll be able to capture most things you want. But, the zoom, stability, and drastic improvement on the audio quality make an actual camcorder worth it, especially when you really want to record something well, like a play or recital. A smartphone won't do near as good a job because you can forget about zooming and good audio quality. For baby's first breast feeding (just kidding :lol:) or playing in the family room or smaller things like that, a smartphone will work just fine.

I would respectfully disagree. I think a D-SLR with a zoom lens and tripod will work just fine as a camcorder. Unless your kid is the next Yo-Yo Ma or Lady Gaga, videos of those recitals are more for archival purposes than anything else. I don't know many parents who watch old recital videos over and over again and complain about the production quality.
Fair enough I guess...if you don't care about the quality then it's all moot anyways right? It all depends on if you really want a video recorder or not...because it will give you better quality on all those fronts, especially when setting up a tripod isn't really feasible. If they worked just the same then nobody (who knew their buttocks from their elbow) would ever buy a camcorder.

Side note...is there a maximum movie length time with a D-SLR or does it just depend on what size flash card you have as with a regular camcorder?

DTSC
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Re: Advice needed on buying a camcorder!

Post by DTSC » Wed Dec 07, 2011 3:00 pm

guitarguy wrote:
DTSC wrote:
guitarguy wrote: snip...
Someone else mentioned this but I'll second it...if you go this route, you'll be able to capture most things you want. But, the zoom, stability, and drastic improvement on the audio quality make an actual camcorder worth it, especially when you really want to record something well, like a play or recital. A smartphone won't do near as good a job because you can forget about zooming and good audio quality. For baby's first breast feeding (just kidding :lol:) or playing in the family room or smaller things like that, a smartphone will work just fine.

I would respectfully disagree. I think a D-SLR with a zoom lens and tripod will work just fine as a camcorder. Unless your kid is the next Yo-Yo Ma or Lady Gaga, videos of those recitals are more for archival purposes than anything else. I don't know many parents who watch old recital videos over and over again and complain about the production quality.
Fair enough I guess...if you don't care about the quality then it's all moot anyways right? It all depends on if you really want a video recorder or not...because it will give you better quality on all those fronts, especially when setting up a tripod isn't really feasible. If they worked just the same then nobody (who knew their buttocks from their elbow) would ever buy a camcorder.

Side note...is there a maximum movie length time with a D-SLR or does it just depend on what size flash card you have as with a regular camcorder?

My Nikon D5100 can record at full HD 1920 x 1080 at 30 fps. I think the maximum length is 12 minutes. The maximum file size is 4 GB, so you can have a longer clip at lower resolution. You can buy VR (vibration reduction) lenses and an add-on external microphone.

I guess my point is that few people (ones I know anyhow) look at old videos. I can count on a few fingers how many times I've watched my wedding video - shot by a professional in 15 years of marriage. The inconvenience of having to drag another camcorder around (along with diapers, formula, wipes, toys, crackers, hand sanitizer, a change of baby clothes) meant - in my case - that we didn't bring the camcorder. A short video shot with a D-SLR is better than NO video at all!

Besides, the OP's baby isn't born yet. S/he won't be going to recitals for at least 4-5 years. If they have the next Mozart, I'm sure there's much better camcorder technology in the next 5 years. Any camera will do for baby's first steps - provided it is easy to use, available, and charged up!

scouter
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Re: Advice needed on buying a camcorder!

Post by scouter » Wed Dec 07, 2011 5:42 pm

DTSC wrote:
guitarguy wrote:
DTSC wrote:
guitarguy wrote: snip...
Someone else mentioned this but I'll second it...if you go this route, you'll be able to capture most things you want. But, the zoom, stability, and drastic improvement on the audio quality make an actual camcorder worth it, especially when you really want to record something well, like a play or recital. A smartphone won't do near as good a job because you can forget about zooming and good audio quality. For baby's first breast feeding (just kidding :lol:) or playing in the family room or smaller things like that, a smartphone will work just fine.

I would respectfully disagree. I think a D-SLR with a zoom lens and tripod will work just fine as a camcorder. Unless your kid is the next Yo-Yo Ma or Lady Gaga, videos of those recitals are more for archival purposes than anything else. I don't know many parents who watch old recital videos over and over again and complain about the production quality.
Fair enough I guess...if you don't care about the quality then it's all moot anyways right? It all depends on if you really want a video recorder or not...because it will give you better quality on all those fronts, especially when setting up a tripod isn't really feasible. If they worked just the same then nobody (who knew their buttocks from their elbow) would ever buy a camcorder.

Side note...is there a maximum movie length time with a D-SLR or does it just depend on what size flash card you have as with a regular camcorder?

My Nikon D5100 can record at full HD 1920 x 1080 at 30 fps. I think the maximum length is 12 minutes. The maximum file size is 4 GB, so you can have a longer clip at lower resolution. You can buy VR (vibration reduction) lenses and an add-on external microphone.

I guess my point is that few people (ones I know anyhow) look at old videos. I can count on a few fingers how many times I've watched my wedding video - shot by a professional in 15 years of marriage. The inconvenience of having to drag another camcorder around (along with diapers, formula, wipes, toys, crackers, hand sanitizer, a change of baby clothes) meant - in my case - that we didn't bring the camcorder. A short video shot with a D-SLR is better than NO video at all!

Besides, the OP's baby isn't born yet. S/he won't be going to recitals for at least 4-5 years. If they have the next Mozart, I'm sure there's much better camcorder technology in the next 5 years. Any camera will do for baby's first steps - provided it is easy to use, available, and charged up!
Oh man, my kids just graduated high school in the last few years and I was able to put together a great video synopsis of each of their lives by going back through years of both digital and VHS video tapes. I also incorporated some stills with zoom and pan, but it wouldn't have had the impact without all the videos of their first steps, first bike rides, first swim lessons, first day of school, first music recitals, etc. Each video was about 20 minutes, with music and a few subtitles, and didn't need any narration. They kids loved them and have already played them many times for friends. They've also mentioned that they'll be fun to show their own children one day. The younger parents at the graduation parties were looking at each other and saying, "That was awesome, we gotta get more videos of our younger ones!"

Stills are great for scrapbooks and digital picture frames, but there's nothing like a movie with sound to bring back a moment that will otherwise never come back again. And though my still camera shoots HD video, I use a dedicated camcorder for video.

DTSC
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Re: Advice needed on buying a camcorder!

Post by DTSC » Wed Dec 07, 2011 5:55 pm

scouter wrote:
DTSC wrote:
guitarguy wrote:
DTSC wrote:
guitarguy wrote: snip...
Someone else mentioned this but I'll second it...if you go this route, you'll be able to capture most things you want. But, the zoom, stability, and drastic improvement on the audio quality make an actual camcorder worth it, especially when you really want to record something well, like a play or recital. A smartphone won't do near as good a job because you can forget about zooming and good audio quality. For baby's first breast feeding (just kidding :lol:) or playing in the family room or smaller things like that, a smartphone will work just fine.

I would respectfully disagree. I think a D-SLR with a zoom lens and tripod will work just fine as a camcorder. Unless your kid is the next Yo-Yo Ma or Lady Gaga, videos of those recitals are more for archival purposes than anything else. I don't know many parents who watch old recital videos over and over again and complain about the production quality.
Fair enough I guess...if you don't care about the quality then it's all moot anyways right? It all depends on if you really want a video recorder or not...because it will give you better quality on all those fronts, especially when setting up a tripod isn't really feasible. If they worked just the same then nobody (who knew their buttocks from their elbow) would ever buy a camcorder.

Side note...is there a maximum movie length time with a D-SLR or does it just depend on what size flash card you have as with a regular camcorder?

My Nikon D5100 can record at full HD 1920 x 1080 at 30 fps. I think the maximum length is 12 minutes. The maximum file size is 4 GB, so you can have a longer clip at lower resolution. You can buy VR (vibration reduction) lenses and an add-on external microphone.

I guess my point is that few people (ones I know anyhow) look at old videos. I can count on a few fingers how many times I've watched my wedding video - shot by a professional in 15 years of marriage. The inconvenience of having to drag another camcorder around (along with diapers, formula, wipes, toys, crackers, hand sanitizer, a change of baby clothes) meant - in my case - that we didn't bring the camcorder. A short video shot with a D-SLR is better than NO video at all!

Besides, the OP's baby isn't born yet. S/he won't be going to recitals for at least 4-5 years. If they have the next Mozart, I'm sure there's much better camcorder technology in the next 5 years. Any camera will do for baby's first steps - provided it is easy to use, available, and charged up!
Oh man, my kids just graduated high school in the last few years and I was able to put together a great video synopsis of each of their lives by going back through years of both digital and VHS video tapes. I also incorporated some stills with zoom and pan, but it wouldn't have had the impact without all the videos of their first steps, first bike rides, first swim lessons, first day of school, first music recitals, etc. Each video was about 20 minutes, with music and a few subtitles, and didn't need any narration. They kids loved them and have already played them many times for friends. They've also mentioned that they'll be fun to show their own children one day. The younger parents at the graduation parties were looking at each other and saying, "That was awesome, we gotta get more videos of our younger ones!"

Stills are great for scrapbooks and digital picture frames, but there's nothing like a movie with sound to bring back a moment that will otherwise never come back again. And though my still camera shoots HD video, I use a dedicated camcorder for video.

OK, maybe my perspective is skewed - many of my still pictures are still on the memory card. I can't imagine how much time it took put put the video together!

guitarguy
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Re: Advice needed on buying a camcorder!

Post by guitarguy » Fri Dec 09, 2011 8:44 am

DTSC wrote:OK, maybe my perspective is skewed - many of my still pictures are still on the memory card. I can't imagine how much time it took put put the video together!
Eh, to each their own. Sort of a moot arguement anyways...your still camera is going to take better still shots and a camcorder will take better video. Primary application vs. secondary application for each tool.

I 2nd the thought about how much time it must've taken to cut up those videos!! I recently put together a 4-min band promo video and it took me over 20 hrs to do. Granted I had to lean how to use iMovie in the process...but it can be a long process! Especially when you're sort of a perfectionist like me, and you kind of want to be when your editing a movie to sell yourself to potential talent buyers! :lol:

Come to think of it, my view might be slightly skewed too...for the simple fact that my camera use has been so focused on that project lately. Audio quality is sort of key when recording a band!

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rphurley
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Re: Advice needed on buying a camcorder!

Post by rphurley » Fri Dec 09, 2011 9:55 am

I appreciate the discussion and all the good advice. I bought a new SLR camera last year and never even considered a video option, and regretted it later on. I've been considering the Canon Vixia HF s21 or something in that price range. That particular model does not have an eyepiece and I can see that being a problem in bright sunlight, as was mentioned in an earlier post.
I knew I could count on the Bogleheads for some good, practical advice!

Rich

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Midpack
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Re: Advice needed on buying a camcorder!

Post by Midpack » Fri Dec 09, 2011 10:04 am

rphurley wrote:I appreciate the discussion and all the good advice. I bought a new SLR camera last year and never even considered a video option, and regretted it later on.

Rich
Don't regret it, you did yourself a favor. I have a Nikon D90 and it does HD video though limited to 20 minutes per. I don't shoot video often, so it's handy but not necessary, I picked the camera for it's still capability. And I can shoot video with my iPad or smartphone too. If you specifically want quality video, you want a dedicated HD camcorder with image stabilization, an eyepiece and a tripod like others have mentioned. They're not that expensive. You're in good shape...
You only live once...

scouter
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Re: Advice needed on buying a camcorder!

Post by scouter » Fri Dec 09, 2011 11:09 am

guitarguy wrote:
DTSC wrote:OK, maybe my perspective is skewed - many of my still pictures are still on the memory card. I can't imagine how much time it took put put the video together!
I 2nd the thought about how much time it must've taken to cut up those videos!! !
Yea, what took the most time was going through about 30 VHS tapes (60 hours of video) and hundreds of still photos to find those little magic moments that were then strung together for the final video. And the still photos needed to be edited and properly sized in Photoshop before importing them for the video. That's the laborious part. The actual editing and assembly is fun, though it does take many hours.

It makes a fantastic gift, though. When my wife turned 50 several years ago, I spent several months putting together a video of her "First Half-Century". I contacted her sisters and friends and they all sent old photos, and I had some of her childhood 8mm movies converted to digital. Out of town friends and relatives sent short video birthday greetings that became a montage at the end of the video. Our kids and I did the narration, always working when she was out of the house.

Near the end of her surprise party, I ushered everyone into our den for the "premiere" of her life story. (Which opened with the "G Rating" screen and the 20th Century Fox theme) Lots of laughter and tears, not a dry eye in the house.

And now all the other husbands at the party are seriously pissed at me for raising the bar so high. Their wives were all elbowing them, asking "Are you going to do this for me?"

DTSC
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Re: Advice needed on buying a camcorder!

Post by DTSC » Fri Dec 09, 2011 11:25 am

scouter wrote:
guitarguy wrote:
DTSC wrote:OK, maybe my perspective is skewed - many of my still pictures are still on the memory card. I can't imagine how much time it took put put the video together!
I 2nd the thought about how much time it must've taken to cut up those videos!! !
Yea, what took the most time was going through about 30 VHS tapes (60 hours of video) and hundreds of still photos to find those little magic moments that were then strung together for the final video. And the still photos needed to be edited and properly sized in Photoshop before importing them for the video. That's the laborious part. The actual editing and assembly is fun, though it does take many hours.

It makes a fantastic gift, though. When my wife turned 50 several years ago, I spent several months putting together a video of her "First Half-Century". I contacted her sisters and friends and they all sent old photos, and I had some of her childhood 8mm movies converted to digital. Out of town friends and relatives sent short video birthday greetings that became a montage at the end of the video. Our kids and I did the narration, always working when she was out of the house.

Near the end of her surprise party, I ushered everyone into our den for the "premiere" of her life story. (Which opened with the "G Rating" screen and the 20th Century Fox theme) Lots of laughter and tears, not a dry eye in the house.

And now all the other husbands at the party are seriously pissed at me for raising the bar so high. Their wives were all elbowing them, asking "Are you going to do this for me?"

OMG! I can't ever imagine having even 1/10 the time it took for you to do this. Maybe when I retire. Lord knows what video formats they will use by then.

guitarguy
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Re: Advice needed on buying a camcorder!

Post by guitarguy » Fri Dec 09, 2011 2:45 pm

scouter wrote:
guitarguy wrote:
DTSC wrote:OK, maybe my perspective is skewed - many of my still pictures are still on the memory card. I can't imagine how much time it took put put the video together!
I 2nd the thought about how much time it must've taken to cut up those videos!! !
Yea, what took the most time was going through about 30 VHS tapes (60 hours of video) and hundreds of still photos to find those little magic moments that were then strung together for the final video. And the still photos needed to be edited and properly sized in Photoshop before importing them for the video. That's the laborious part. The actual editing and assembly is fun, though it does take many hours.

It makes a fantastic gift, though. When my wife turned 50 several years ago, I spent several months putting together a video of her "First Half-Century". I contacted her sisters and friends and they all sent old photos, and I had some of her childhood 8mm movies converted to digital. Out of town friends and relatives sent short video birthday greetings that became a montage at the end of the video. Our kids and I did the narration, always working when she was out of the house.

Near the end of her surprise party, I ushered everyone into our den for the "premiere" of her life story. (Which opened with the "G Rating" screen and the 20th Century Fox theme) Lots of laughter and tears, not a dry eye in the house.

And now all the other husbands at the party are seriously pissed at me for raising the bar so high. Their wives were all elbowing them, asking "Are you going to do this for me?"
Kudos. Well done!

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Re: Advice needed on buying a camcorder!

Post by nwrolla » Sat Dec 10, 2011 10:17 am

DTSC wrote:Congratulations! You will find that you will take literally thousands of pictures of your child, but if you're an average amateur photographer, only 1 out of 40 will be of sufficient quality to print. Having a camera with a fast shutter speed helps. Therefore, IMO, get a good D-SLR camera which also has a good video mode (such as the Nikon D5100). As the father of 3 young children, I find that we rarely look at movies but much more frequently look at, send, and post pictures. Once you have a D-SLR camera, you don't want to be carrying another device (i.e. the camcorder) around too. It's just too much to manage - 2 sets of batteries to charge, 2 sets of media to download, etc. For casual, impromptu pictures, the camera on most smartphones will do.
I would recommend getting a decent entry level dslr something along the lines of Canon t3i priced reasonably and will offer amazing quality for entry level shooters. I would however not recommend using.it for video unless you want to.dedicate a lot of time to the craft I shoot wedding video/ photography with an slr and it has a tough learning curve in my experience to achieve proper looking footage.
But answer your question for a video camera. Any Sony or Canon would he sufficient something with an internal hard drive will offer an exceptional amount of space at a lower cost ( instead of buying sd cards) most hd cameras in the 350-600 range are sufficient for home use.
Good luck with your purchase ! :sharebeer

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